Votto optimistic about health but needs more at-bats to get back in playing shape

Veteran first baseman goes 0-for-5 in first two big-league appearances of spring

First baseman Joey Votto has started on Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds for 14 straight years, but his status for the 2023 opener on March 30 against the Pittsburgh Pirates remains in doubt two weeks before the game.

Asked Sunday by reporters in Arizona after his first spring training game appearance about whether he thought he had time to get ready for Opening Day, Votto said, “We’ve got 162 games to play. I’m not worried about one game. I’m concerned about being able to come come out and play well and be healthy for as much of the season as possible.”

Votto said if there was a system where he could play on Opening Day and then continue his preparation outside games, he would do that, but they don’t, so he’s not setting a date for his return — at least not at this point.

Votto, 39, had surgery in the offseason to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left bicep. He did not play after Aug. 16 last season.

Votto played in simulated minor league games Friday and Saturday before making his Cactus League debut on Sunday. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He made his second appearance Tuesday and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

This is the first time Votto has gotten a full spring training camp, even if he wasn’t playing in games earlier, since 2019. There was an abbreviated summer camp before the 60-game 2020 season because of the pandemic. He missed time in 2021 spring training because because he got COVID-19. A year ago, the Major League Baseball lockout delayed the start of spring training.

“It’s nice to get a full camp,” Votto said. “I feel like I’m more prepared this year than I have been in a while. I’m going to need to accumulate some at-bats first.”

Votto said he’s not 100% in terms of getting used to the game speed, but he’s happy with his health compared to where he was a few months ago.

“I’ve been rehabbing since the day after the surgery,” Votto said. “I’ve been trying my very best with amazing support from surgeons, physical therapists, strength coaches. I’ve been in such good hands, and I’m grateful for that. I wouldn’t be here right now with the opportunity to compete without their help. It was a complicated surgery, and it’s not easy and it was a real challenge to to come back from but I’m looking forward to coming back. Being a professional athlete, a Major League player, you’re going to get hurt. So I didn’t view it as a bump in the road or a hurdle or something. It’s absolutely a part of the the Major League experience. I feel like optimistic, and I’m looking forward to playing Major League games.”

Reds Manager David Bell knew Votto was getting closer to playing in spring training games but didn’t know until Saturday when that would be.

“Really the timing couldn’t have gone any faster,” Bell said. “He worked so hard to get to this point, and the exciting part is we do still have a couple of weeks left before we break camp and he’s getting into a major league game. We’ll just go from there. It’s still one day at a time. So I’ll continue to take it one day at a time, too, but it’s great to have him back in the game.”

About the Author